Redhawks freshman nets game's lone goal

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Ashley Runion scored her first collegiate goal in a 1-0 victory over Northwestern (La.) State.

On a team that returned nine regulars and three additional letterwinners, Heather Nelson knew it would take special freshmen to break into the lineup.

The Southeast Missouri State women's soccer coach apparently has found some.

Two freshmen started Friday night's season opener and one of them scored the lone goal as the Redhawks slipped past Northwestern (La.) State 1-0.

About 200 fans at Houck Stadium saw the defending Ohio Valley Conference tournament champion Redhawks dominate play, but miss on several golden opportunities.

"We moved the ball really well, especially being our first game," Nelson said. "The girls have really done a good job of buying into our system.

"We created a lot of chances. We'll get sharp and start putting those away. But for a first game, I was pleased."

The two rookies gave Nelson plenty to be pleased about in their own right.

Vanessa Hart, a native of Australia, is already a fixture in the midfield for Southeast.

The same goes for Ashley Runion up front.

Runion, a graduate of Fort Zumwalt South High School in St. Peters, Mo., hit the post in the first half and shot wide on a breakaway 20 minutes into the second half.

But Runion made no mistake a short while later as she headed in a nice cross from senior Alaina Lacopo for her first collegiate goal.

Senior Blair Schuppan also earned an assist on the goal that came with 18 minutes, 41 seconds remaining.

"We kept working at it," said Runion of all the Redhawks' chances. "She [Lacopo] gave me an amazing ball."

Of how excited she was to score in her first official college game, the soft-spoken Runion said: "It was all right, I guess."

She seemed more excited to simply be a part of the Redhawks.

"I didn't expect to [start right away]," Runion said. "But I'm happy to be. I love the team."

Runion was a high-scoring player in high school and Nelson believes she can play a similar role with the Redhawks.

"She's a very good player," Nelson said. "She's always around the ball.

"Vanessa is also a very good player. It's a real credit to them [to be starters]. I told them if they're a younger player on this team, they have to play at a high level to take a returning player's spot."

Southeast held a 16-5 advantage in shots and a 5-0 edge in corner kicks as the Redhawks peppered the Demons' net all night.

Lindsay Pickering, the Redhawks' senior goalkeeper, was credited with four routine saves to post the season-opening shutout.

"I liked the way we played," Nelson said. "It was a good first game for us."

Southeast will have its first road test Sunday as the Redhawks travel to Springfield for a 1 p.m. contest with Missouri State.

The Bears lead the all-time series 3-2, including a 1-0 victory in Cape Girardeau last year.

"We always have very good games with them and I expect another one," Nelson said.

The Redhawks will play their next home game Sept. 9 against DePaul from the Big East Conference.

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